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T H E V I N C E N N E S 


FEBRUARY 22, 1839. 







At a meeting of the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society, 
February the 22d, 1839, 

On motion of Dr. Stahl, the following resolutions were unani- 
mously adopted: 

1st. That the thanks of this Society be, and they are, hereby 
tendered to the Hon. John Law, for the learned and interesting 
oration delivered by him to-day. 

2d. That a committee be appointed to request a copy of said oration 
for publication in pamphlet form, at the expense of the Society. 

A. T. ELLIS, PresH pro. tern. 
Geo. R. Gibson, Secretary. 

Vincennes, February 23, 1839. 
Dear Sir: — The undersigned, a committee appointed by the 
"Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society," request from you, 
a copy of the oration delivered by you on the 22d February, for publi- 
cation — and as it is their wish, and the desire of our citizens generally, 
that the same should be published, for the learning and collection of 
historical facts contained in it, we trust that you will yield to the 
request, and furnish us with a copy of the same for that purpose. We 
are, with great respect and esteem, yours, &c. 

Hon. John Law. 

Vincennes, February 25, 1839. 

Gentlemen: — Yours, under date of the 23d February, was duly 
received. The address to which you refer, was intended for the use 
of the society of which you are members, and is entirely at their 

Some of the incidents connected with the capture of Vincennes 
by Col. Clark, and set forth in the address, were, as you well know, 
derived from a manuscript journal of the campaign, kept by one who 
had a command in it. The manuscript was forwarded to the society 
for their use, by an honorary member* of it, not a resident of our 
town. Courtesy would require, that previous to its publication, his 
consent should be obtained. He has been written to on the subject, 
and should there be no objection on his part, the oration is entirely 
at your service, for any purpose which the Society may designate. 


To Messrs. Geo. R. Gibson, B. M. Thomas, Daniel Stahl, Com- 
mittee, <Sfc. 

•Professor Bliss of Louisville, Ky. 

Vincennes, February 22d, 183U. 
Wc, the undersigned, having understood that the members of the 
"Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society," had requested the 
Hon. John Law to furnish to said Society a copy of his oration this 
day delivered, on behalf of said Society, for publication, would beg 
leave to concur, and join in said request, and respectfully solicit on 
behalf of the French population of Vincennes and its neighborhood, a 
participation of the wish. Signed, 







Vincennes, February 22d, 1839. 

The undersigned has received, with sentiments of profound respect, 
the note addressed to him, on behalf of the French inhabitants of 
Vincennes, and will with pleasure comply with their request, as soon 
as circumstances will admit.- 

The history of our "ancient borough" has been but little understood, 
and if there has been any one gratification, which the undersigned 
has felt in the delivery of the address, the publication of which is 
sought for by your note, it is in the fact, that by it, he has been 
enabled to present the well founded claims of the ancient inhabitants 
of the "Post" to the gratitude of the present generation. 


To Monsieures Laptante, Bayard, Brouillct, Barrois, and others on 
behalf of the French population of Vincennes. 


[The absence of the author from the place of publication, while the address was going 
through the press, obliged him to entrust the reading of the proof to a literary friend, whose 
want of familiarity with the cliirography of the manuscript will be received as an apology for 
the following rather numerous errata.'] 

On page 12th, 6th line from the bottom, instead of "Father Gabriel Maust" read "Father 
Gabriel Marest." 
Pages 13th, 11th, and wherever it occurs, instead of " Oualache" read "Ouabache." 
Page 11th, 4th line from the bottom, instead of "Belle Rivier" read "Belle Riviere." 
Page 21st, 20th and 31st lines, instead of "Lo7igpie" read "Longprie." 
Page 22d, 19th line, instead of "hero" read "heroic." 

Page 21lh, 4th line, instead of "the very conquest" read "this very conquest." 
Page 25th, 3d line from the bottom, instead of "on receiving his troops" read "on reviewing 
his troops." 

Page 28th, 12th line, instead of "kingdom of Sardina" read "kingdom of Sardinia." 

Page 30th, 17th line, instead of "early" read "easily." 

Page 41st, 26th line, instead of "Amei u an Etooernors" rea4 "Americans." 

N. I;. Kor a history of the accompanying Map see note «'A" in the Appendix 


Having been solicited by that portion of my fellow- 
citizens, who are members of the "Vincennes Histori- 
cal and Antiquarian Society," to prepare an address, 
connected with the early settlement, the rise, and pro- 
gress of our ancient Borough — I have thought that no 
occasion could perhaps be more appropriate for its 
delivery than the one on which we are assembled. 
Dating its origin long before even the birth of the 
"Father of his Country," a solitary spot in the wilder- 
ness long after his advent on the stage of action — 
scarcely known even at the date of his decease, we have 
seen it within the present century forming a nucleus 
from which has arisen three great States — embracing a 
population probably five times as large as that which 
belonged to our parent State Virginia, at the treaty of 
peace in '83, and one of them, our own State, at the 
last Presidential election giving, of the free white suf- 
frage polled on that occasion, the fifth highest vote of 
all the States of the Union. Could it be permitted to 
him who was "first in war, first in peace, and first in 
the hearts of his countrymen" to look down from the 
mansions of bliss, where "he rests from his labors," upon 
the work of his hands, and see an empire called into 
existence since his departure — abounding in wealth — in 

intelligence — in patriotism, and love of country; inhabi- 
ted by freemen, the descendants of those whom he had 
led to battle, strong in their attachment to liberty, and 
able and willing to maintain it ; proud of the appellation 
of American citizens, and deeply imbued with the re- 
publican principles so admirably set forth in his farewell 
address; — could he see the country north-west of the 
river Ohio, which, even at the period of his departure for 
another and a better world, was the abode, for the most 
part, of the son of the Forest, or the game which con- 
stituted his daily subsistence — now dotted with cities 
and villages — covered with cultivated fields — and the 
residence of upwards of two millions of beings, most of 
whom have come on the stage of action since that pe- 
riod; how would his heart swell with joy, his bosom 
throb with pleasure, at the reflection, that these glorious 
results, are but a part and parcel of that admirable 
system of government, the foundation of which was 
cemented by the blood of his fellow patriots of the rev- 
olution, and the superstructure of which was the work, 
in part, of his own hands. For aught we know, my 
countrymen, his spirit may at this very moment be hov- 
ering over this assembly. That Being who is all wise and 
powerful, and who created him, like Moses of old, to 
lead our fathers from a "land of Egyptian bondage to 
the Land of Promise" — may, for aught we finite beings 
know, and for the same wise purposes for which he cre- 
ated him, permit him to see, and to watch over, and to 
o-uard the rights and happiness of their descendants. 
Let us at least act as if we felt the influence of his counsels, 
and preserve them, as the richest legacy we can hand 
down to those who arc to come after us. If there is 
any one subject which should engage the earnest atten- 

lion of the human mind — if there is any one in which 
mankind are particularly interested, it is the history of 
their species. The interest in the subject is much in- 
creased by the particular relationship which we bear, to 
the country whose history we are anxious to thoroughly 
understand. There is a sort of selfishness in the mat- 
ter, which, after all, constitutes the true love of country. 
It is this feeling which is the father to all genuine patri- 
otism, and without it, there would be but little induce- 
ment for action. We read with infinitely more pleas- 
ure, in childhood, the relations which are given us of the 
struggle for independence /zere, than we ever did, or ever 
can that of any other republic, which has hereto- 
fore, either in ancient or modern time, acquired its 
liberty. We may, and no doubt do, dote on isolated 
cases of patriotism, and love of country, as we find them 
recorded in other times and in other places. Our feel- 
ings are enlisted — our blood comes quicker through our 
veins, while reading the stories of Grecian and Roman 
struggles for independence — and it is the same with the 
more modern contests, between the sovereign and his 
oppressed subjects. We enter the lists — we fight over 
the battles, in our mind's eye, of Marathon and Thermop- 
ylae. The strongest feelings of the human heart are 
enlisted in behalf of the oppressed, and of those con- 
tending, as we believe, for their rights. But what boy 
who reads of the struggle at Concord, and the battle of 
Bunker Hill, but that feels an interest in the story, 
which no pen, ancient or modern, has ever given to 
similar engagements. He feels that his fathers were 
there before him — that the very ground is holy — that the 
same blood which waxed warm in that contest, when 
bayonet crossed bayonet in deadly strife, is running 


through his own veins ; and the names of those who fell 
there 4 become as "household words" to him. Stand on 
its gory heights and look around you — does one experi- 
ence the same emotions on the heights of Athens, on the 
Acropolis, rich as it is in classic association, and in the 
recollection of a gallant nation struggling for existence? 
No: The American feeling predominates, and it is right 
it should be so. "Romanus sum" is the true watch word 
and battle cry of all who love their country. If this 
feeling exists to the extent which I have described it in 
relation to country — does it not run through all the 
geographical divisions into which our country is divided? 
The citizens of one section will point you to the fields 
of Trenton and Princeton, as among the most gallant 
exploits of the revolution ; another to the Brandy wine. 
The Carolinian will tell you, that the battle of Eutaw 
was among the most sanguinary fought ; while the Vir- 
ginian points to the seige of Yorktown, as the last and the 
brightest page in our struggle for independence. These 
feelings are natural, they are proper ; and I should think 
but little of that man's heart, whatever I might of his 
head, who did not feel and express them. It is this at- 
tachment to our own state, to our own abiding place — 
to the land of our nativity, or our domicil, which forms 
one of the strongest links of that chain which binds us 
to our common country. But I will go farther. There 
is, or should be, not only an attachment to our common 
country, and to the state which we live in, but a strong 
and abiding attachment to the very town in which 
we are located. Without it, we cannot feci personally 
interested in its welfare, in its prosperity, in its im- 
provement — in all which should render it dear to us, as 
the abiding place of ourselves and of those connected 

with us. 1 lay it down, therefore, as a principle not to 
be contested, that he, who, with the ties which should 
bind him to the place of his birth or his adoption, does not 
feel warmly, nay deeply interested in its history, in its 
prosperity, in its adversity; — who, whether "through 
good or evil report," will not protect, defend, and uphold 
it, is neither a good citizen, attached to the state he 
lives in, or devoted to his country. Let others gainsay 
us as much as they may ; let envy detract from our 
merit, or jealousy decry our position, our capabilities, 
our business, or our taste ; it is our duty to stick to 
the "Post." 

As to the early history of Chippe Coke, (the town of 
Brush Wood,) or as known in later days, Vincennes, 
clouds and darkness rest upon it. At what date it first 
became established as a military position, it is almost 
impossible at this late period actually to determine. 
It is well known that it was first settled by the French. 
That nation, with a tact and judgment which is 
wonderful, and with a prescience which seems to be more 
than realized at the present time, in relation to the 
country watered by the Ohio and the Mississippi and 
the tributary streams; in the latter part of the 17th 
century attempted a union of their settlements on the 
Mississippi, with their possessions in Canada. In order 
to effect this, they established a cordon of posts from 
the Lakes to the Balize, including one or more military 
stations on the Illinois and the Wabash. We know, 
that early in the 18th century, at least, there was one 
here, one at Kaskaskia before that period, another at 
Peoria, and one at Ouiatanon, or the mouth of the Wea, 
a short distance below the present site of the town of La- 
fayette. The project was a grand one, and but for the 


concurrence of circumstances, usually attendant upon na- 
tional schemes, when colonies are to be formed at a dis- 
tance — and which in the event of a war with a rival power, 
are the first objects of attack and conquest, might have 
been successful. And "New France," for that was the 
intended designation of this Transatlantic Empire, might, 
in all the elements which constitute wealth and power, 
by this time have rivalled its founder; and we, instead of 
being plain republican citizens, have formed a portion of 
the subjects of the "Grand Monarque." But the war 
with Great Britain, which was concluded by the peace 
of 1763, transferred Canada to the British dominion, 
and Louisiana by the secret treaty with Spain in 1762, 
to the latter power. France was thus stripped of all 
her possessions in the New World — possessions acquired 
by an immense expenditure both of blood and treasure. 
It was in the accomplishment of this bold and magnifi- 
cent scheme for western empire, on the part of the 
French Court, that the settlements on the Illinois and 
Wabash were formed. But it was not the military sub- 
jection alone of the western country that France had in 
view. There was another and a higher consideration — 
it was the establishment of the Catholic religion — the 
established religion of France, which she wished to in- 
troduce into her possessions on the continent. Where- 
ever, therefore, she sent a detachment of her troops, 
she accompanied it with a Missionary of the Cross — 
and while the aborigines of the country were kept in 
awe by the force of her arms, it is no less true, and cer- 
tainly more creditable, that the child of the forest was 
led to obedience by the milder but not less powerful influ- 
ences of the new creed, which their fathers, the "Robes 
Noir," or Black Robes as they called them, introduced 


to their understanding. It is probable their imagination 
may have been as much influenced as their judgment. 
But be this as it may, it is an admitted fact, that the 
Jesuits who accompanied these expeditions, did much to 
soften their feelings and civilize their manners, during 
the short period they occupied the country ; and the in- 
fluence of their doctrines, and the amenity and kind- 
ness of their manners, are yet remembered by the tribes 
who occupied a few years since the country between the 
Lakes and the Ohio. No set of men, in pursuit of any 
object temporal or spiritual, ever endured greater hard- 
ships, suffered more perils, or made greater sacrifices 
than these Reverend Fathers. Not content simply with 
the establishment of their "Tabernacles in the wilder- 
ness," they followed the Indian to his hunting grounds 

threaded forests — swam rivers — crossed prairies in the 
midst of winter — frequently for days without food, and 
often nearly without raiment. The supposed conver- 
sion of a single Indian to the doctrines of the Catholic 
church — the baptism of an infant, seems to them to 
have been an ample reward for all their labor, for all 
their toil, and for all their sufferings. With us in these 
latter days, differing as most of us do in our religious 
opinions from this school of ecclesiastics, it is almost 
impossible to do them justice. As a whole, their history 
has been but little studied, and less understood. They 
have neither had their Livy or their Polybius. If the his- 
tory of these men — of their exertions, of their influence, 
of their actions, for good or evil, ever is to be written 
with candor, it must be in this country, the scene of many 
of their labors, and I might well add of their sufferings 
and their death. "No subject would form a more impos- 
ing or interesting theme for the historian, none demand 


higher qualifications, more laborious research, and above 
all the most dignified superiority to all the preposses- 
sions of age, of country, and of creed." It is well 
known, that according to the rules of the order of St. 
Ignatius, annual reports were required from his follow- 
ers wherever located. The Jesuit, whether in the cold 
regions of Labrador, in the Tropics, in Cochin China; 
in fine, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, transmit- 
ted to his superior, at the end of the year, an account of 
his stewardship, in the shape of a pastoral letter. But 
it was not simply the spiritual situation of his vineyard 
he delineated. He described the country, its geography, 
its topography, its customs, manners, habits, traditions, 
language, dialects; in short every matter which either in a 
religious, and I might add political view, would enable 
his superior to judge of the necessity of further exer- 
tion or additional aid. And, strange as it may seem, the 
best and only authentic account of the country bounded 
on the north by the Lakes, east by the Wabash, south 
by the Ohio, and west by the Mississippi, one century 
since, is in the relations made by the Jesuit Fathers, 
giving an account of the Missionary laborers in that 
quarter. And I am indebted to one of these communica- 
tions in the "Lettres Edifiant et Curieuse" (Letters edi- 
fying and curious) published in Paris in 1761, for the 
first written notice of the "Post"* It is contained in a 
letter written by "Father Gabriel Maust, Missionary 
of the company of Jesus, to Father Gemon of the same 
company," dated at Kaskaskia, an Illinois village, other- 
wise called the "Immaculate Conception of the Holy 
Virgin," November the 9th, 1712, one hundred and 
twenty-six years since. Cast your eyes back my 

*See note A. 

friends to this period, and in your mind's eye run 
over the period since intervening. Where now is the 
good Father, and the friend to whom he communicated? 
gathered to their fathers: generation after generation 
has passed away — the priest and the catechuman have 
returned to the dust from whence they came, and the 
places which "once knew them, know them no more 
forever." One hundred and twenty-six years since, and 
the country now abounding in all the materials which 
constitute a great nation, was all but a desert to the 
banks of the Dekware. 

It is a singular fact, yet no less true, that the Wabash 
was known and navigated by the whites long before the 
Ohio was known to exist. Indeed all the maps — and I 
have seen two before the year 1730 — call the Ohio at its 
confluence with the Mississippi, "Oualache." The rea- 
son is obvious, when one reflects for a single instant, 
that the whole course of travel to the Mississippi was 
either by the Illinois or the Wabash. The only com- 
munication with the Mississippi was by the French in the 
latter part of the 17th and early in the 18th century, and 
was from the Lakes. The priest and the soldier were the 
only travellers. They ascended the Maume, crossed the 
portage and descended the Wabash to this post. The 
nations of Indians on the south side of the Ohio were 
at war with those on this side. They wished to cross 
to Kaskaskia; the Indians here told them there was dan- 
ger in descending further. They wend their way across 
Illinois, aiming at the Mississippi; they descended that 
stream to New Orleans; and when they found the Ohio 
pouring its flood into the "Father of Waters," they nat- 
urally enough suppose it to be the same stream they had 
navigated in their voyage here, and delineate it on their 


1 1 

maps as the "Oualache." In corroboration of the re- 
mark here made, permit me to quote from a portion of the 
Reverend Father's letter above referred to. In page 325 
describing the Illinois, he says: "About eight leagues, 
or 240 miles below this, (he is writing from Kaskas- 
kia,) on the Illinois side, that is to say the east side, (for 
the Mississippi runs generally from north to south,) there 
empties another fine river called "Oualache." It comes 
from the east north-east. It has three branches, one of 
which extends as far as the Iroquois; the other runs into 
Virginia and Carolina, and the third heads among the 
Miamis." Now it is very evident that the river thus 
described was the Ohio, and that branch of it which is 
said to run up to the country owned by the Miamis, was 
the Wabash. The other branches were the main river, 
and the Tennessee, or the Cumberland. The writer 
gives a very graphic description of the country bordering 
on the "Oualache;" says it is rich in minerals, especially 
lead and tin, and that if experienced miners were to 
come out from France and work the mines, he has no 
doubt "gold and silver" would be discovered in abun- 
dance. That the quantity of "buffalo and bear" which 
was to be found on the banks of the Wabash, was in- 
credible; and, in the true spirit of an epicure, the good 
Father says — "the meat of a young bear is very deli- 
cious, for I have tried it." Thus we see that in point 
of antiquity, and virtue of prior discovery and occupa- 
tion, the stream we live on takes precedence of the 
"Belle Rivier."* 

But to return to the immediate subject of our address. 
The first notice of Vincenncs which I have been ena- 
bled to find, with no little research, is the one given by 

*See note B. 


Father Marest in the same letter from which I have 
made the above quotation, and is on page 333 of the 
volume referred to. ,It will be remembered that Volney, 
who was here in 1776, and whose active mind, led him 
to various enquiries in relation to our first settlement, 
gives it as his opinion, that the first establishment made 
here by the French was in 1735. And he states the 
fact, that he conversed with the oldest French settlers, 
and with all whom he supposed could give any infor- 
mation on the subject. It will be also recollected that 
the date of Father Marest's letter from Kaskaskia is 
Nov. the 9th, 1712; twenty-three years before the pe- 
riod assigned by Volney for the establishment of a post 
here. In the letter referred to, of Father Marest, he 
says — "The French having lately established a Fort on 
the river Wabash, demanded a Missionary, and Father 
Mermet was sent to them." Now there can be no 
doubt that the river he mentioned, was the one we live 
on, and not the Ohio with which it was, as I have men- 
tioned, confounded; and for this very obvious and plain 
reason, that the French never had a "Fort" on the 
Ohio within the limits either of Indiana, or Illinois. And, 
it is equally clear to my mind, that the post mentioned, 
was the one afterwards, par excellence, called c au Post,' 
or "the Post," and subsequently "Post Vincennes." If 
I am right in my conjecture, the settlement of this 
place by the French, may be dated back as early as the 
year 1710 or '11 — probably the former, inasmuch as the 
Fort must have been built and garrisoned before an 
application was made for a Missionary; and it would 
take some time to answer the call from Kaskaskia, the 
nearest point where a priest could be obtained. The 
first settlement of this place then, by the whites, was 


in the year 1710; twenty-five years before the period 
assigned by Volney. But it will not do to let Father 
Mennet go, without a more particular notice of him and 
his visit, seeing this was the first "labor of love" ever 
undertaken to our ancient Borough. It seems, the mo- 
ving impulse which led this "Herald of the Cross" to 
the shores of the Wabash, an impulse which drew many 
of his brethren into the western wilderness, was the 
conversion of a tribe of Indians now extinct, but proba- 
bly a branch of the Miamis — as he says they spoke that 
language — and called 'Mascoutins,' who had their village 
near the Fort; and who, from their strong attachment 
to the superstitions of their medicine men, were very 
little disposed to hear "the true faith," as delivered by 
the Reverend Father. Resolving in his own mind the 
best method of overcoming their unbelief in the true 
church, he concluded to have a sort Owen and Camp- 
bell debate, a public discussion with their principal me- 
dicine men, in the presence of the nation. But let us 
hear the Father's own account of the matter. "The 
way I took," says the Father, "was to confound, in 
the presence of the whole tribe, one of these charlar- 
tans, whose 'Manitou,' or Great Spirit which he wor- 
shipped, was the 'buffalo.' After leading him on insen- 
sibly to the avowal, that it was not the buffalo that he 
worshipped, but the 'Manitou,' or Spirit of the buf- 
falo, which was under the earth, and which animated all 
buffaloes, which heals the sick, and has all power; I 
asked him if other beasts, the bear, for instance, and 
which some of his nation worshipped, was not equally 
inhabited by a Manitou, which was under the earth? 
"Without doubt" said the Grand Medicine. "If this 
is so," said the Missionary, "men ought to have a Man- 


itou who inhabits them." "Nothing more certain," 
said the Medicine man ; — "ought not that to convince 
you," said the Father, pushing his argument, "that you 
are not very reasonable? For if man upon the earth is 
the master of all animals; if he kills them, if he eats 
them ; does it not follow that the Manitou which inhab- 
its him, must necessarily have a mastery over all other 
Manitous? Why then do you not invoke him, instead 
of the Manitou of the bear and the buffalo, when you 
are sick?" "This reasoning," says the Father, "dis- 
concerted the charlatan." But like much other good 
logic in the world, I am sorry to add, in his own words, 
"this was all the effect it produced." 

A severe malady broke out in the village. The In- 
dians, says the Father, gathered around the Fort, for 
the purpose of making a great sacrifice to their Manitou. 
They slew thirty or forty dogs, hoisted them on poles, 
and forming a procession, danced and sang around the 
Fort. Finding their own efforts unable to stop the 
pestilence, they appealed again to the Missionary, to 
stay the destroying angel, who was carrying them off 
daily. But it seems, neither the "Manitou" of the 
French or of the Indian was able to arrest the plague. 
For, says the Father, "notwithstanding all my atten- 
tion, more than half the village perished." How long 
Father Mermet remained here, we are unable to say. 
We find he returned to Kaskaskia, and ultimately died 
there. His place no doubt was supplied by the labors 
of another; but by whom and when is unknown. The 
records of the Catholic church here make no mention of 
a Missionary, until about the year 1749, when Father 
Meurin came here ; and from that time, until the present, 
there has been a regular succession of the priesthood. 


From the period to which I alluded, and for the term 
of nearly half a century, there would be but little to 
notice in the progress of this settlement, even if we 
had the materials of its rise and progress to operate on. 
Isolated as it was, there were no events either in its 
political or social character, which would afford much 
interest. There was probably a succession of priests 
and commandants, who governed the little world around 
them, with infinite power and authority; from whose 
decrees spiritual or temporal, there was no appeal, and 
none desired. a No colony can long remain separated 
from its parent stock until it exhibits a peculiar, and 
distinct character. Climate, situation, and country, 
although not exclusively the agents in forming the char- 
acter, must nevertheless be admitted to have great influ- 
ence." The character of the society was a mixture of 
military and civil ; more however of the former, than 
the latter. The white portion of the population was, it 
must be remembered, essentially French. In this re- 
mote country there were few objects to urge to enter- 
prize. Beggary was unknown. The necssaries of life 
were easily procured ; and beyond these, there were no 
wants to be supplied. Hospitality was exercised by all 
— for there were no taverns. Of what use were codes 
of law, judges, prisons, in such a society. Each dis- 
trict had its commandant ; and their proceedings were 
singular enough. The party complaining obtained a no- 
tification from the commandant to his adversary of his 
complaint, accompanied by a command from the com- 
mandant to render justice. If this had no effect, he 
was notified to appear before the commandant, on a 
particular day, and answer the complaint ; and if the 
last notice was neglected, a sergeant and file of men 


were sent to bring him. It was a very short and sum- 
mary process, of the John Doe and Richard Roe-kind 
— no Sheriff, no taxation of costs. The party recusant 
was fined and kept in prison until he did his adversary 
justice; and when extremely refractory, the cat-o-nine 
tails brought him to a sense of justice. And I am not 
quite sure, that in many cases, the same speedy and exact 
method of dispensing justice might not be practised in 
these latter days. Sure I am, if it was, much unneces- 
sary litigation would be avoided. In such a state of 
things, of what use were learning and science. Few 
could read, fewer write; and as to arithmetic, it was 
a lost art. Their dealings were marked by honesty and 
integrity, and peltries were their standard of value.* 
Honorable, punctual in their dealings, hospitable to 
strangers, and with great kind feeling and brotherly 
love towards one another ; — these may be considered as 
their virtues. In opposition to them, it must be said, 
that they were devoid of public spirit, enterprize, or 
ingenuity ; were indolent and uninformed. They told 
me, says Volney (the Americans) in his visit here in 
1796, "that the Canadians had only themselves to blame 
for their hardships. We must allow, say they, that they 
arc a kind, hospitable, sociable set of fellows; but in 
ignorance and idleness they beat the Indians. They 
know nothing of civil or domestic affairs ; their women 
neither sew nor spin, or make butter, but pass their 
time in gossipping and tattle. The men hunt, fish, roam 
in the woods, bask in the sun. They do not lay up, as 
we do, for winter, or provide for a rainy day. They can't 
cure pork or venison, make sour krout, or spruce beer." 
But I doubt much, my friends, whether all these useful 

*See note C. 


and elegant accomplishments of the American, of 
"curing pork, making sour krout and spruce beer," 
which have been inculcated by them to their French 
neighbors, have much improved their social and moral 
condition. If happiness in this world consists, and it 
does so in a great degree, in freedom from care, the 
ancient population of our village were the happiest of 
the human family; all their desires fulfilled. But the 
race is nearly extinct; they have become amalgamated 
with another people; their habits, manners, opinions, 
nay language itself is changing ; and in a few years, the 
tall, manly, arrowy form, of the descendant of St. Louis 
— mild, peaceful, and always polite — with his blanket 
capote, the blue kerchief round his head, and sandalled 
feet, will, — as some of us have seen them in our younger 
days, wending their way on Sundays in their untired 
and unironed cart, to the old wooden chapel of St. Fran- 
cis Xavier, with smiling faces, and, as I believe, with 
sincere devotion, — be seen "no more forever." A new 
generation, a new race, a new people have encroached 
upon their possessions; and the laws of civilization, as 
sure as the laws of nature, will force them to yield to 
to the manners, habits, customs, dress and language, 
of their more powerful neighbors. Whether by the 
change their physical or moral condition is bettered, is 
a question which might be well mooted. For my own 
part I doubt it. I believe they were a happier, better, 
and more moral people before their connection with the 
Americans, than since; and that the change of govern- 
ment, has been productive of no good to their social con- 
dition. As an evidence of their attachment to the old 
state of things, is the fact, also noticed by Volney, 
"that the first thing they demanded on their cession to 
the United States, was a military commandant." 


I have before remarked, that from the advent of 
Father Mermet as Missionary here, in the year 1710 or 
'11, for nearly a half a century, there were no impor- 
tant events connected with the history of our a Post," 
but a continued succession of commandants and Mission- 
aries. I should, however, fail in a very important part 
of our history, were I not to notice, during that period, 
the commander after whom our town is named. Fran- 
cois Morgan de Vinsenne. (" Vinsenne" for so he spelt 
his name,) was an officer in the service of the King of 
France, and serving in Canada probably as early as 
1720, in the regiment "de Carignan." At any rate, as 
we are informed, he was engaged in some service with 
another officer on the Lakes towards Sault St. Marie, 
for the Governor of Canada, M. de Vaudrieul, in 1725. 
At what time he took possession here, is not exactly 
known; probably somewhere about the year 1732. 
There is nothing on our records to show, but an act of 
sale made by him and Madame Vinsenne, the daughter 
of Monsieur Phillip Longpie of Kaskaskia, and record- 
ed there. The act of sale, dated 5th January, 1735, 
styles him "an officer of the troops of the King," 
and "commandant au poste du Ouabache;" the same 
deed expressing that Madame Vinsenne was absent at 
the Post. Her signature being necessary to the deed, 
she sent her mark, or cross, which is testified to as hers, 
"X the mark of Madame Vinsenne," and showing that 
the good lady was not very far advanced in the rudi- 
ments, though her husband was commandant, and her fa- 
ther the wealthiest citizen of Kaskaskia. The will of 
Monsieur Longpie, his father-in-law, dated the 10th 
of March, 1734, gives to him, among other things, 
408 lbs. of pork, which he wishes " kept safe until the 



arrival of Mons. Vinsenne," who. was then at the Post. 
There are other documents there signed by him as a 
witness, in 1733, '4; among them one of a receipt for 
100 pistoles, received from his father-in-law, on his 
marriage. From all these proofs, I think it evident 
that he was here previous to 1733, and left with his 
command, on an expedition against the Chickasaws, in 
1736, by orders from his superior officer at New Or- 
leans, "Monsieur d'Artagette," commandant for the 
King in Illinois, and in which expedition, according to 
" Charlevoix," M. St. Vinsenne was killed. But as the 
facts are not generally known, I quote his words among 
the last of his volume : "We have just received very 
bad news from Louisiana, and our war with the Chicka- 
saws. The French have been defeated; among the 
slain is 'Monsieur de Vinsenne,' who ceased not until 
his last breath to exhort the men to behave worthy of 
their religion, and their country." Thus perished this 
hero and gallant officer, after whom our town is named. 
We may well be proud of its origin. On looking at the 
register of the Catholic church, it will be found, that 
the change of name from Vinsenne to Vincennes, its 
present appellation, was made as early as 1749. Why 
or wherefore, I do not know. I wish the original or- 
thography had been observed, and the name spelt after 
its founder, with the s instead of the c, as it should be. 
The war between France and England, which broke 
out about 1754, deprived the former of all her posses- 
sions in this country ; Canada was added to Great Brit- 
ain, and Louisiana, as before remarked, to Spain. The 
English, anxious to acquire possession of the country, 
soon after the peace of 1763 took possession of it. The 
subsequent events will introduce the American popula- 


tion on the stage of action ; and a brief but accurate 
history of the events which have occurred since, will 
close my notice of it. The inhabitants occupying the 
Post, seem to have but little considered or regarded the 
change. Their old laws, customs, manners, and habits, 
were continued ; and, as remarked by one who was pres- 
ent, "the change of government would have hardly been 
known." The difficulties, however, between the mother 
country, and her colonies, were about to produce a 
change, which has been felt to the present day among 
the ancient inhabitants of the "Post." I refer to 
the capture of it by Gen. George Rogers Clark, Feb- 
ruary 23d, 1779, — sixty years from the day after the 
one, which we are now commemorating. Of this expe- 
dition, of its results, of its importance, of the merits of 
those engaged in it, of their bravery, of their skill, of 
their prudence, of their success, a volume would not 
more than suffice for the details. Suffice it to say, that 
in my opinion — and I have accurately and critically 
weighed and examined all the results produced by any 
contests in which we were engaged during the revolu- 
tionary war — that for bravery, for hardships endured, 
for skill and consummate tact and prudence on the part 
of the commander, obedience, discipline and love of 
country on the part of his followers; for the immense 
benefits acquired, and signal advantages obtained by it 
for the whole Union, it was second to no enterprize 
undertaken during that struggle : I might add, second to 
no undertaking in ancient or modern warfare. The 
whole credit of this conquest belongs to two men — Gen. 
George Rogers Clark, and Col. Francis Vigo. And 
when we consider that by it the whole territory now 
covered by the three great States of Indiana, Illinois, 


and Michigan, was added to the Union, and so admitted 
to be by the commissioners on the part of Great Britain, 
at the preliminaries for the settlement of the treaty of 
peace in 1783; and but for the very conquest the boun- 
daries of our territory west, would have been the Ohio, 
instead of the Mississippi, and so acknowledged and 
admitted both by our own, and the British commissioners 
at that conference — a territory embracing, as I have be- 
fore remarked, upwards of two million of people, the 
human mind is lost in the contemplation of its effects ; 
and we can but wonder that a force of one hundred and 
seventy men, the whole number of Clark's troops, 
should, by this single action, have produced such impor- 
tant results. That they did so, all history attests ; that 
they did so, our very assembly here this day proves. 

"It was on the 10th day of December, 1777, that 
Col. Clark opened the plan of the Illinois campaign, 
against the British interests in this quarter, to the cele- 
brated Patrick Henry then Governor of Virginia." It 
is unnecessary now to go into all the causes which led 
to the adoption of the plan of a western campaign as 
suggested by Gen., then Col. Clark. Suffice it to say, 
that it was not without doubt as to its success, and 
great difficulty in preparing the material for the en- 
terprize, that it was undertaken. Virginia herself, 
from whom the aid was demanded, and assistance in 
men and money was expected, was in the most critical 
period of her revolutionary struggle; her finance ex- 
hausted, her sons drawn from the cultivation of the 
soil, and from all the avocations of civil life, — for the 
most part in the field, battling for freedom, — it is not 
to be wondered at, "that the counsels which advised so 
distant an expedition should have been listened to with 


doubt, and adopted with caution." Fortunately for the 
country they were not unheeded. Gov. Henry, encour- 
aged by the advice of some of Virginia's most promi- 
nent and patriotic sons, yielded to the solicitations of 
Clark; and, on the 2d of January, 1778, he received two 
sets of instructions, — "one public, directing him to pro- 
ceed to Kentucky for its defence ; the other, secret, or- 
dering an attack on the British Post at Kaskaskia," — 
and with the instructions, twelve hundred pounds in de- 
preciated currency, as his military chest for conquering 
an empire. On the 24th of June, 1778, and during a 
total eclipse of the sun, — a sad forboding, as the party 
thought, of their future success, but which ultimately 
proved "the sun of Austerlitz," — this patriotic band of 
four companies, under the command of Captains Mont- 
gomery, Helm, Bowman, and Harrod, crossed the falls 
of the Ohio, on their apparently "forlorn expedition." 
It is a well known matter of history, "that during 
the commencement of our revolutionary struggle, the 
heart-rending scenes and wide spread ravages of our 
Indian foes on the western frontier, were caused princi- 
pally by the ammunition, arms, and clothing supplied at 
the British military stations of Detroit, Vincennes, and 
Kaskaskia, — then garrisoned by British troops." To 
divert the attention of the enemy from our own frontier, 
and to occupy them in the defence of their own posi- 
tions, it was necessary to carry the war into their own 
dominions. The active mind of Clark saw that, by 
doing this, a diversion would be created in our favor. 
"His first intention was to march directly to Vincennes; 
but on receiving his troops, the paucity of the number, 
and the want of all the material necessary for the attack 
of a fortified town, induced him to abandon this object, 


and to prosecute the one originally contemplated by his 
instructions, the capture of Kaskaskia." It forms no 
part of the plan of this address to enter into the details 
of that expedition. Suffice it to say, that it was emi- 
nently successful, without the loss of a single man ; and 
that, on the 4th of July, 1778, Kaskaskia yielded to the 
supremacy of American enterprize and valor, and with 
Cahokia surrendered to the American arms. 

It must be recollected, that previous to this event, a 
treaty of peace had been concluded between France and 
the United States. The intelligence of it had been 
communicated to Clark, on his descent down the Ohio. 
The effect of this treaty had a wonderful influence upon 
the subsequent events of the campaign. Among tfre 
individuals at Kaskaskia, at the time of its capture, 
was M. Gibault, the Roman Catholic priest at Vin- 
cennes. The capture of Vincennes, as Clark himself 
admits, "had never been out of his mind from the first 
moment he undertook the expedition westward." His 
success at Kaskaskia served only to inspire a wish for 
the accomplishment of the long desired achievment. 
Affairs being regulated at Kaskaskia, he sent for M. 
Gibault, and explained to him his views. This patriotic 
individual, who subsequently received the public thanks 
of Virginia for his services, and whose strong attach- 
ment for the American cause is well known, readily 
and cheerfully sustained him. Dispatched by Clark, 
to sound the French population here, over whom he 
had great influence, he, on his arrival, assembled them 
in the church, explained the object of his mission, the 
alliance with France, and the negotiations with which 
he was entrusted. He had no sooner finished, than the 
population en masse took the oath of allegiance to the 


Commonwealth of Virginia. A commandant was elect- 
ed, and the American flag displayed over the fort, — 
much to the astonishment of their Indian neighbors, 
who for the first time saw the glorious stars and stripes, 
instead of the Cross of St. George, unfurled to that 
breeze in which it has so often since waved trium- 

M. Gibault, returned to Kaskaskia with the gratify- 
ing intelligence of the perfect success of his mission ; 
not less, it may be presumed, to the astonishment of 
Clark, than to his gratification. Capt. Helm was ap- 
pointed commandant "and Agent for the Indian affairs 
in the department of the Wabash," and repaired to the 
"Post," at which it was the intention of Clark to place 
a strong garrison, on the arrival of the reinforcements 
expected from Virginia. These reinforcements never 
arrived ; and a new and important leaf in the chapter 
of our history is about to be unfolded, and another indi- 
vidual no less celebrated, and to us equally dear with 
the conqueror, and whose name will go down to posterity 
with his, in the history of our place, and, on the same 
bright page which records the valor of the commander, 
is to be introduced to your notice. 

It was on the first of August, 1778, that M. Gibault 
returned to Kaskaskia with the intelligence of the sub- 
mission of the French inhabitants here, to the Ameri- 
can government, and of the circumstances above de- 
tailed. It was well known that Governor Abbott, the 
commander here, at the time of Clark's expedition to 
the Illinois, had gone to Detroit on business; and that 
no great time would elapse before reinforcements would 
be sent from that post to Vincennes. Clark could not, 
even had he have desired it, detailed any of his own 


command to garrison the place. Helm was here, a 
commandant in name simply, without a single soldier 
under his command. From the first of August, when 
M. Gibault returned, until the 29th of January, 1779, 
Clark had not received a single communication from Vin- 
cennes. How he obtained it, and the consequences re- 
sulting from the communication, it is now my purpose 
briefly to unfold. 

Francis Vigo, better known to us under the military 
title of Col. Francis Vigo, a rank which he held during 
the territorial government, was born in Mondovi, in the 
kingdom of Sardina, in the year 1747. He left his pa- 
rents and guardians at a very early age, and enlisted in a 
Spanish regiment as a private soldier. The regiment 
was ordered to the Havana, and a detachment of it sub- 
sequently to New Orleans, then a Spanish post, and 
which detachment Col. Vigo accompanied. At what 
time, and under what circumstances he left the army, 
is not actually known. It is believed, that his atten- 
tion to his duties, his natural intelligince, and high- 
minded and honorable deportment, gained him the 
esteem and confidence of his commander; and that he 
received his discharge without any application on his 
own part. We find that shortly after his discharge — 
and probably by the aid of the same powerful friend 
who had obtained it — he was supplied with goods, and 
engaged in the Indian trade on the Arkansas and its 
tributaries; and that a few years after, he made a set- 
tlement at St. Louis, also a Spanish post, and was con- 
nected in the closest relations of friendship and busi- 
ness with the Governor of Upper Louisiana, then resi- 
ding at the same place, and whose confidence and affec- 
tion he enjoyed in the highest degree. That a private 


soldier, a man without education — for he could but 
simply write his name — should in a few years, thus be 
enabled to make his way in the world, and, in so short 
a period, become so extensively engaged in business, so 
highly respected and beloved, as we know him to have 
been at the period to which I allude, as well as to the 
day of his death, shows him to have thus early been 
possessed of a goodness of heart, a purity of mind, a 
high, honorable, and chivalric bearing; qualities which 
grew with his growth and strengthened with his 
strength, until the very close of his long and useful 
life. At the time of Clark's capture of Kaskaskia, 
Col. Vigo was a resident of St. Louis, and extensively 
engaged under the patronage of the Governor in the 
Indian trade up the Missouri. A Spaniard by birth and 
allegiance, he was under no obligation to assist us. — 
Spain was then at peace with Great Britain, and any 
interference on the part of her citizens was a breach of 
neutrality, and subjected an individual, especially of the 
high character and standing of Col. Vigo, to all the con- 
tumely, loss, and vengeance, which British power on 
this side of the Mississippi could inflict. But Col. Vigo 
did not falter. With an innate love of liberty ; an attach- 
ment to republican principles, and an ardent sympathy 
for an oppressed people struggling for their rights, he 
overlooked all personal consequences ; and as soon as he 
learnt of Clark's arrival at Kaskaskia, he crossed the 
line — went there and tendered him his means, and his 
influence, both of which were joyfully accepted. Know- 
ing Col. Vigo's influence with the ancient inhabitants of 
the country, and desirous of obtaining some information 
from Vincennes, from which he had not heard for 
several months, Col. Clark, in a conference with Col. 

Vigo, proposed, that he should come here and learn the 
actual state of affairs at the Post. Col. Vigo did not 
hesitate a moment in obeying this command. With a 
single servant he proceeded on his journey; and when on 
the Embarras, he was seized by a party of Indians, 
plundered of every thing he possessed, and brought a 
prisoner before Hamilton, then in possession of the 
place, which, with his troops, he had a short time be- 
fore captured, holding Capt. Helm a prisoner of war. 
Being a Spanish subject, and consequently a non combat- 
ant, Governor Hamilton, although he strongly suspected 
the motives of his visit, dared not confine him ; he accord- 
ingly admitted him to his parole, on the single condi- 
tion, that he should daily report himself at the Fort. On 
his frequent visits there, his acute and discerning mind, 
aided by the most powerful memory I ever knew, ena- 
bled him early to ascertain the state of the garrison, 
its numerical force, means of defence, position, in fine 
all the matter necessary to make an accurate report, as 
soon as liberated. Hamilton in the mean time embar- 
rassed by his detention, besieged by the French inhabi- 
tants of the town, by whom he was beloved, for his 
release; and finally threatened by them, that unless re- 
leased, they would refuse all supplies to the garrison, 
yielded, on condition that Col. Vigo would sign an 
article "not to do any act during the war injurious to 
the British interests." This he absolutely and posi- 
tively refused. The matter was finally adjusted, on an 
agreement entered into on the part of Col. Vigo, "not 
to do any thing injurious to the British interests on Ids 
way to St. Louis." The agreement was signed, and the 
next day he departed in a periouge down the Wabash 
and the Ohio, and up the Mississippi with two voyagers 


accompanying him. Col. Vigo faithfully and religiously 
kept the very letter of the bond ; on his way to St Louis 
he did nothing injurious in the slightest degree to British 
interests. But he had no sooner set his foot on shore 
there, and changed his dress, than in the same periouge 
he hastened to Kaskaskia, and gave the information, 
and arranged the plan, through the means of which, 
and by which alone, Clark was enaHed to succeed, and 
did succeed, in surprizing Hamilton, and making cap- 
tives of him and his garrison. Spirit of the illustrious 
dead, let others judge of this matter as they may, we 
who have lived to see the immense advantages of that 
conquest to our beloved country — so little known, and 
so little appreciated when made — will do you justice, 
and we will also teach our children, and our children's 
children, who are to occupy our places, when we are 
gone, to read and remember, among the earliest lessons 
of the history of that portion of the country which is to 
be also their abiding place — our own lovely valley — that its 
conquest and subsequent attachment to the Union, was 
as much owing to the councils and services of Vigo, 
as to the bravery and enterprize of Clark. 

It was on the 5th of February, 1779, that a Spartan 
band of one hundred and seventy men, headed by as 
gallant a leader as ever led men to battle, crossed the 
Kaskaskia river, on their march to this place. The in- 
cidents of this campaign, their perils, their sufferings, 
their constancy, their courage, their success, would be 
incredible, were they not matters of history. In my 
opinion, as I have before remarked, no campaign either 
in ancient or modern warfare, — taking into considera- 
tion the force employed, the want of material, the coun- 
try passed over, the destitution of even the necessaries 


of life, the object to be accomplished, and the glorious 
results flowing from it, is to be compared to it. And 
what is even yet more astonishing, is the fact, that a 
battle which decided the fate of an empire, a campaign 
which added to our possessions a country more than 
equal in extent to the United kingdoms of Great Britain, 
Scotland, and Ireland, has scarcely even a page of our 
revolutionary annals devoted to its details, or making 
even honorable mention of the brave and gallant men 
who so nobly and successfully conducted it. 

Time would fail me, and your patience would be per- 
haps exhausted, were I to follow step by step, and day by 
day, this small, but brave, devoted, patriotic, and chival- 
rous corps, through the wilderness from Kaskaskia to 
this place. It would be but a repetition of daily sufferings, 
of fatigue, of peril, of constancy, of perseverence, and of 
hope. Day after day, without provisions, wading in ice 
and water to their necks, through the over-flowed bot- 
toms of the Wabash, carrying their rifles above their 
heads, their gallant chief taking the lead, foremost in 
difficulty and in danger, did these patriotic soldiers strug- 
gle on, faint, weary, cold and starving, until the prize was 
in view, and their object was accomplished. Look 
around you, my friends, and see what this portion of our 
beloved Union is now. Look ahead, and tell me, if you 
can, what it is to be a half century hence, supposing 
the improvements to progress as they have the last twen- 
ty years — and the advancement will be geometrical — 
and then go back with me sixty years since, this very 
day, and learn from an actor in the scene — one holding 
command, and from whose unpublished journal, I make 
the extract, what the country was, and the diffkul- 
ties and dangers, the perils and sufferings those endured 


who conquered it lor you, and yours: and should you, or 
those who are to come after you, to the latest generation 
forget them, "may your right hands forget their cun- 

"February 22nd, 1779. Col. Clark* encouraged his 
men, which gave them great spirits. Marched on in the 
water ; those that were weak and famished from so much 
fatigue, went in the canoes. We came three miles far- 
ther to some sugar camps, where we stayed all night. 
Heard the evening and morning guns at the Fort. No 
provisions yet. The Lord help us. 

"23rd. Set off to cross a plain called Horse Shoe 
Plain, about four miles long, all covered with water 
breast high. Here we expected some of our brave men 
must certainly perish, the water having froze in the 
night, and so long fasting. Having no other resource 
but wading this lake of frozen water, we plunged in 
with courage, Col. Clark being first. We took care to 
have boats by, to take those who were weak and be- 
numned with the cold into them. Never were men so 
animated with the thought of avenging the ravages 
done to their back settlements, as this small army was. 
About one o'clock we came in sight of the town. We 
halted on a small hill of dry land, called "Warren's 
Island," where we took a prisoner hunting ducks, who 
informed us that no person suspected our coming in that 
season of the year. Col. Clark wrote a letter by him 
to the inhabitants, as follows: — 

u To the Inhabitants of Post Vincennes. 
"Gentlemen: Being now within two miles of your 
village with my army, determined to take your Fort 
this night, and not being willing to surprize you; I 

*See note D. 


take this method of requesting such of you, as are 
true citizens, and willing to enjoy the liberty I bring 
you, to remain still in your houses. And those, if any 
there are, that are friends to the King, will instantly 
repair to the Fort, and join the Hair-Buyer General, 
and fight like men. And if any such as do not go to the 
Fort, shall be discovered afterwards, they may depend 
on severe punishment. On the contrary, those who are 
true friends to liberty, will be well treated. 

"G. R. CLARK." 

In order to give effect to this letter, by having it com- 
municated to the French inhabitants, the army en- 
camped until about sun down, when they commenced 
their march, wading in water breast high, to the rising 
ground on which the town is situated. One portion of 
the army marched directly up along where the levee is 
now raised, and came in by the steam mill. While an- 
other party under Lieut. Bradley, deployed from the 
main body, and came in by the present Princeton road. 
An entrenchment was thrown up in front of the Fort, 
and the battle commenced from the British side by the 
discharge, though without effect, of their cannon, and 
the return on our side of rifle shot — the only arms 
which the Americans possessed. On the morning of 
the 24th, about 9 olclock, Col. Clark sent in a flag of 
truce, with a letter to the British commander, during 
which time there was a cessation of hostilities, and the 
men were provided with a breakfast — the first meal 
which they had had since the 18//?, six days before. The 
letter of Clark is so characteristic of the man, so laconic, 
and, under such trying circumstances, shows so much 
tact, self possession and firmness, that I will read it : 

"Sir — In order to save yourself from the impending 


storm that now threatens you, J order you immediately 
to surrender yourself, with all your garrison, stores, 
&c. &c. For if I am obliged to storm, you may de- 
pend on such treatment as is justly due to a murderer. 
Beware of destroying stores of any kind, or any papers 
or letters that are in your possession, or hurting one 
house in town. For by Heavens, if you do, there shall 
be no mercy shown you. "G. R. CLARK. 

u To Gov. Hamilton." 

Since the days of Charles the Xllth, of Sweden, I 
doubt whether ever such a cartel, under such circum- 
stances was sent to an antagonist. Prudence, as Clark 
well knew would, indeed, have been a 'rascally virtue' on 
such an occasion. Hemmed in on one side by ice and 
water, with a fortified Post bristling with artillery in front, 
with one hundred and seventy soldiers — part Americans, 
part Creoles, without food, worn out, and armed only 
with rifles ; it was, as Clark knew, only by acting the 
victor instead of the vanquished, (as was the real state 
of the case, if Hamilton had only known the fact) that 
he could hope to succeed. He acted wisely and he acted 
bravely; any other course, and he would have been a 
prisoner, instead of a conqueror. The very reply of 
Hamilton to this singular epistle shows he was already 

"Gov. Hamilton begs leave to acquaint Col. Clark, 
that he and his garrison are not disposed to be awed into 
any action unworthy British subjects." 

The battle was renewed ; the skill of our western 
riflemen, celebrated even in our days, wounded several 
of the men in the Fort through the port-holes, the only 
place where a shot could be made effective. Clark with 
the skill of a practised commander, must have seen and 
felt from the answer returned to his communication, 


that another message would soon be delivered to him 
from the same quarter ; and he was not long in receiv- 
ing it. The flag of truce brought him as follows: 

"Gov. Hamilton proposes to Col. Clark a truce for 
three days, during which time he promises, that there 
shall be no defensive work carried on in the garrison, on 
condition^ that Col. Clark will observe on his part a like 
cessation of offensive work; that is, he wishes to confer 
with Col. Clark, as soon as can be, and promises that 
whatever may pass between them two, and another per- 
son, mutually agreed on to be present, shall remain se- 
cret till matters be finished ; as he wishes, that whatever 
the result of the conference may be, it may tend to the 
honor and credit of each party. If Col. Clark makes a 
difficulty of coming into the Fort, Lieut. Gov. Hamilton 
will speak with him by the gate. 

24/A FeVy, '79. HENRY HAMILTON." 

If Gov. Hamilton had known the man he was 
dealing with, he would have found ere this, that he would 
have made light of any difficulties "in getting into the 
Fort;" and if not already convinced of the daring of 
the foe, he was contending with, one would have sup- 
posed Clark's answer would have set him right: 

"Col. Clark's compliments to Gov. Hamilton, and 
begs leave to say, that he will not agree to any terms, 
other than Mr. Hamilton surrendering himself and garri- 
son prisoners at discretion. 

"If Mr. Hamilton wants to talk with Col. Clark, he 
will meet him at the church with Capt. Helm." 

Laconic enough surely, and easily understood ; and so it 
was. For in less than one hour afterwards, Clark dicta- 
ted himself the following terms, which were accepted, a 
meeting having taken place at the church : 


u 1st. Lieut. Gov. Hamilton agrees to deliver up to 
Col. Clark "Fort Sackvilk" as it is at present, with all 
its stores, &c. 

2nd. The garrison are to deliver themselves as pris- 
oners of war, and march out with their arms and 

3rd. The garrison to be delivered up to-morrow at 
ten o'clock. 

4th. Three days time to be allowed the garrison to 
settle their accounts with the inhabitants and traders. 

5th. The officers of the garrison to be allowed their 
necessary baggage, &c« 

Signed at Post St. Vincents, this 24th of February, 
1779 : agreed for the following reasons: 

1st. The remoteness from succor. 2nd. The state 
and quantity of provisions. 3rd. The unanimity of the 
officers and men in its expediency. 4th. The honora- 
ble terms allowed — and lastly, the confidence in a gene- 
rous enemy. HENRY HAMILTON, 

Lieut. Gov. and Superintendant." 

It was on the twenty-fifth day of February, 1779, 
about ten o'clock in the forenoon, that the British 
troops marched out, and the Americans entered that 
Fort, acquired with the tact, skill, judgement, bravery, 
peril, and suffering, which I have so briefly attempted 
to describe. The British ensign was hauled down, and 
the American flag waved above its ramparts; that 

" Within whose folds 
Are wrapped, the treasures of our hearts, 
Where e'er its waving sheet is fanned, 
By breezes of the sea, or land." 

Time would not permit me, my friends, to dwell on 



the important results growing out of this conquest to 
our common country. A volume would be required to 
delineate fully, all the advantages which have been 
derived from it to that Union, a portion of which we 
now constitute. Calculate, if you can, the revenue 
which the Government already has, and will continue 
to derive from its public domain within the territory 
thus acquired. Bounded by the Lakes and the Miami on 
one side, and the Ohio and the Mississippi on the other, 
embracing three large states, with a population now of 
upwards of two millions, with a representation of six 
Senators in one branch of our National Councils, and 
eleven Representatives in the other ; and which, within 
the last half century, was represented by a single 
Delegate, but, in the next half century to come, 
will have fifty Representatives; — mild in its climate, 
rich in its soil, yielding in the abundance, variety, and 
excellence of its products, perhaps, a greater quantity 
than the same space of territory in the civilized world ; 
inhabited, and to be inhabited by a race of industrious, 
hard working, intelligent, high-minded, and patriotic 
people, attached to the institutions of their country ; 
lovers of order, liberty and law; republicans in pre- 
cepts and in practice ; trained from their earliest infancy 
to revere and to venerate, to love and to idolize the 
Constitution adopted by their fathers, for the govern- 
ment of themselves and their posterity; — calculate if 
you can, the increase within this territory, of just such 
a population as I have described, within sixty years to 
come — its wealth, its influence, its power, its improve- 
ments, morally and socially — and when your minds are 
wearied in the immensity of the speculation, ask your- 
selves to whom all these blessings are to be attributed ; 


and whether national gratitude, in the fulness of na- 
tional wealth and prosperity, can find treasures enough 
to repay those gallant men, and those who aided them 
in their glorious struggle, which I have thus attempted 
feebly to describe. But I am warned by the time 
which I have already occupied, that this address should 
close — not that the subject is exhausted, or can be. 
No other, that I can conceive of, presents a finer field 
for the historian; and the few incidents which have 
been gathered here and there, a few and far between," 
in relation to our early history, but stimulates to 
further enquiry. A brief notice of the principal events 
which have occurred since the capture by Gen. Clark, 
and I shall close this long, and, I fear from the nature 
of the subject, to you on this occasion, uninteresting 

The first object to be obtained, after the fall of the 
Post, and the consequent change resulting from it, was 
the establishment of a civil government. Col. Clark 
returned to Kaskaskia, leaving Capt. Helm in command, 
both as civil and military commandant. The result of 
the campaign was made known as early as possible to 
the government of Virginia, and Col. Todd was sent 
out as the governor and commandant, by the Executive 
Council there. How long he remained, I do not know; 
probably long enough to form a provisional government ; 
for we find that he delegated his power to M. Legras, 
as Lieut. Governor, and proceeded to Kaskaskia. I 
have had no opportunity of ascertaining from the re- 
cords in Virginia, the continuation or names of the 
Governors after Col. Todd, until the transfer of the 
territory to the United States, and the territorial go- 
vernment then formed under the act of Congress. 


The act oi* the Virginia Legislature, transferring the 
North Western Territory to the United States, passed 
on the 20th of December, 1783, and the Delegates on 
the part of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, 
Arthur Lee, and James Madison, by their deed of cession, 
conveyed, on the first of March, 1784, "all the right, 
title, and interest of the State of Virginia in the coun- 
try acquired north-west of the river Ohio, to the United 
States." And in 1787, the celebrated ordinance for its 
government was passed by Congress; an ordinance, 
which in its effects, at least to us, is second only to the 
Constitution of the United States. An ordinance, 
which for its wise and wholesome provisions ; for its 
beneficial and lasting results ; for its effects not only 
upon those who were to be the immediate subjects of 
its action, but for the blessings and prosperity which 
it will carry down to the latest posterity, as long as we 
remain a part of the confederacy, is unequalled by any 
legislative act ever framed here or elsewhere. The 
author of this act, Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, 
for it alone, if he had done nothing more, deserves a 
place in car affections, and in those of our children to 
the latest generation. The act provides, "that there 
shall be neither slavery or involuntary servitude within 
the territory thus ceded ; " creates for its civil govern- 
ment, a Governor, Secretary, and three Judges : the 
Judges with the Governor "to make laws for the terri- 
tory, subject to the approval of Congress." 

The laws thus made were selected from the codes of 
other States, and applied to our local condition. They 
were few, but effective, and I doubt much whether all 
subsequent legislation has been enabled to frame <i code 
supperior to that of the old territorial code. 


Gen. Harmar, then commanding in the west, was 
appointed civil Governor and superintendant of Indian 
affairs. He was here in 1787, and I believe, had charge 
of our civil affairs by himself or deputy, until 1790, 
when Gen. St. Clair was appointed and took command. 
He came here in 1791, and went to Kaskaskia, from 
whence he made a long report to the Secretary of State 
in relation to the situation of affairs here. Some of his 
suggestions, considering our present advanced state of 
improvement, are singular enough. a He recommends 
the establishment of a printing press in the Western 
Territory;" and gives as a reason, "that as the laws are 
not binding upon the people until approved by Congress, 
there is no way of giving publicity to them, but by 
having them read in the courts." "But few people," says 
he, "understand them, and even the magistrates who 
carry them into execution are perfect strangers to 
them." There seems, however, to have been no great 
difficulty after all. The French complained that as 
the County Court was composed of five justices, three 
of whom were Americans, and but two Frenchmen, 
whereas, the French population was treble that of the 
Americans, that there was occasionally a little leaning 
by their Honors, on the American side of the bench, 
towards their countrymen; and, as none of the Ameri- 
can governors assigned to keep the peace, understood 
French, there was some difficulty in making their cause 
fully understood. But there were no mobs ; no tarring 
and feathering of the Judges ; no pulling down of the 
court house. If the law was not well understood by 
these modern Mansfields, they decided the case, "ex 
equo et bono," according to equity and good conscience ; 
and, in nine cases out of ten, no doubt, did more 


complete justice to all parties, than with a row of "gen- 
tlemen learned in the law" before them, to confuse them 
with their sophistry, or perplex them with a quibble. 

In 1800, Congress passed the act dividing the Indi- 
ana territory, from what was called the Territory North 
West of the river Ohio, and in 1801, Gen. William 
Henry Harrison was appointed Governor. There were 
at this period, but three settlements in the whole of 
this immense territory. The one at the Falls, called 
"Clark's Grant" — the one here, and the one on the 
Mississippi between Cahokia and Kaskaskia; the 
whole population of which did not exceed five thousand 
souls. It does not fall within the limits which I had 
assigned to this discourse, to trace our progress farther. 
The history of the town, the seat of government of 
the Territory until 1816, is the history of Indiana du- 
ring that period ; but the facts connected with it are 
familiar to you all. Suffice it to say, that our progress 
since has been onward, and will continue to be, should 
we be true to ourselves and to the interests committed 
to our hands. 

Members of the "Vincennes Historical and Antiqua- 
rian Society" and citizens of Vincennes, I have finished 
the task assigned me on this occasion — not by any 
means in the manner it should be, or, indeed in the 
manner I propose to finish it hereafter, if I have leisure. 

I have thrown together a few of the leading incidents 
of our history, fitted only to be woven into an address 
on the present occasion. The historian of our ancient 
borough, must gather for his work more materials than I 
have been furnished with, to do full justice to his subject. 
I [e should search the archives of other countries, of 
Prance, of England, the Colonial records of Canada, and 


the revolutionary ones of Virginia; in fine, devote to it 
more time, labor, and research, than I have been enabled 
to do, in order to make it the work it should be. The 
history of this Post has been the history of the Western 
country. It has been the stake for which nations have 
played ; the prize for which princes have contended — 
France, England, Virginia, and the United States have, 
in turn, held it in subjection — have governed it with 
their laws, and regulated it with their codes, civil and 
military. Our position has been an important one, 
while our history, but little known, has been more full 
of stirring incident, of revolution, of bloodshed, and 
of battle, than the history of any town on the conti- 
nent. One hundred and thirty years since, we have 
seen it occupied as a Post in the wilderness, forming 
one link in the chain by which France attempted to 
hold her possessions in this country. Fifty years after, 
we have seen it yielding to British dominion and sub- 
ject to British power. The war of the revolution, and 
the severing of those ties which bound us to our parent 
state, wrested it also from its conquerors. The bravery 
of Clark, and that of his compatriots in arms, formed 
a new era in its eventful career. It became the empo- 
rium of an empire — the seat of government of a territory 
now composing three large states. The history of our 
town, since the division of the territory is familiar to 
you all. But even since then it has not been without its 
interest. The same stern devotion to country, the 
same love of liberty, the same valor and patriotism, 
has been displayed in modern times by its citizens, 
which gave to it an eclat in times gone by. The battle 
field of Tippecanoe was fertilized by the blood of our 
brethren. And more daring, brave, chivalrous and 


patriotic men never gathered under their country's ban- 
ner, than rallied in its defence on that eventful field, 
from the town in which we are now assembled. 

And am I right in saying, that the same spirit still 
exists here? That should our country again make its 
call a to arms," that here, in the very cradle of liberty, 
on this side of the Alleghanies, the spirit which ani- 
mated Clark and his followers, has been handed down 
to those whom I address; and that if occasion offered, 
you would emulate them in the privations they under- 
went, the sufferings they endured, and the glory they 
acquired. Am I right in saying this ? Fellow-citizens, 
I know that I am right. The response to this question 
in the affirmative, is answered by every breath that 
heaves from the bosoms of those who hear me. It is 
answered by the silent homage which you yourselves, 
on this occasion, have paid to bravery and patriotism, 
such as I have delineated. 

Young men of this assembly, this feeling must be 
kept alive — you must neither forget your origin or 
your destiny. Many of us will soon pass off the stage 
of action: — 

"The eternal surge 
Of time and tide rolls on, and bears afar 
Our bubbles ; as the old burst, new emerge, 
Lash'd from the foam of ages ; while the graves 
Of empires heave but like some passing waves." 

Generation after generation will succeed us. But let 
it be ever impressed on your minds, and the minds of 
those who come after you to the latest posterity, that 
the same wisdom and valor which acquired the " Post," 
must always sustain, protect and defend it. 


Note A. 

The Map of "Lac Tracy," otherwise called Lake Superior, and 
part of Lakes Huron and Michigan including Mackinaw and the 
"Sault St. Marie," although not immediately connected with the sub- 
ject matter of my address, I have been induced to annex to it, from 
its antiquity and rarity. I know of no other, at least on this side of 
the Alleghany mountains. It is possible it may be in some of the 
public libraries East ; but if so, it is unknown to me. The map is 
taken from an old volume of the "Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses," 
published at Paris, in 1748, for the "Society of Jesuits," and printed 
from the original plat of "Fathers Marquette and Allouez," made in 
1668. When we reflect that this long voyage and critical survey 
was made by these good fathers, in a bark canoe, with few instru- 
ments, often suffering the privations incident to such an undertaking 
at this early period, the mind is lost in wonder at their perseverance, 
their courage, and their success. It was while making this survey 
that Marquette learnt from the Indians the existence of the "Mes- 
chasippi," and avowed his determination (subsequently carried into 
execution) of exploring it. 

I am indebted for the copy to my friend Bishop Brute, Catholic 
Bishop of Vincennes, whose profound learning, classical attainments, 
and antiquarian zeal, are only equalled by the purity of his heart 
and the amenity of his manners. 

Note B. 

Since the delivery of the foregoing address, I have read article 
2d in the January number of the North American Review, being a 
review of the "Life of Father Marquette" by Jared Sparks — "Library 
of American Biography, Vol. 10th." The original work of Mr. Sparks, 
the "Life of Father Marquette," contained in the 10th volume of his 
American Biography, I never have seen. 

The reviewer, however, in the article referred to, has, I conceive, 
made a sad mistake in relation to the "labour of love" of Father Mer- 
met to the "Mascoutens," a tribe of Indians now extinct, or, what is 
more probable, amalgamated with other tribes, and hence have lost 
their original appellation. The "Mascoutens" were a branch of the 
"Miamis" — vide Mr. Gallatin's letter published in the "Transac- 
tions of the American Historical and Antiquarian Society;" they 
never lived on the Ohio, but occupied the country along Lake Michi- 



gan, anil down the River Wabash. In page 99 ot' the article referred 
to, the reviewer says: "An attempt was also made to build up a set- 
tlement at the point where the Ohio and the Mississippi join, at all 
times, a favorite spot among- the planners of towns, and at this mo- 
ment, if we mistake not; in the process of being made a town. The 
first who tried this spot was Sieur Juchereau, a Canadian gentleman, 
assisted by Father Mermet, who was to Christianize the Mascoutens, 
of whom a large flock was soon gathered." The reviewer then goes 
on to describe the "modus operandi," by which Father Mermet syllo- 
gistically undertook to confound the high priests of this deluded band, 
and gives an account of his conference with their principal medicine 
men, very similar to that given in the preceding address. Now the 
only matter in relation to which we differ is the "wenMc." I assert 
that the conference and "theological discussion" took place on the 
banks of the Wabash, and not "at the confluence of the Ohio and Mis- 
sissippi;" and that it happened at the "Post," or the "O Post," (con- 
traction for the French word "au,") or, par excellence, "The Post 
Vincennes." And I believe I prove it from two circumstances; the 
one referred to, to wit — the "Mascoutens" were a branch of the 
Miamis, and inhabited the country watered by the Wabash ; they 
never occupied any portion of the country bordering on the Ohio. 
If the object of the good Father was, (as Father Marest states it was 
— and we both derive our account of the matter from him,) the con- 
version of the "Mascoutens," he would go where they dwelt, which 
was on the Wabash, and not on the Ohio ; and if Father Mermet was 
with the Sieur Juchereau at the mouth of the Ohio, it is hardly 
credible, that the Mascoutens would "gather in a large flock from a 
distance of upwards of two hundred miles, from the banks of the 
Wabash, to the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi, for the 
mere sake of a public discussion on "mooted points of theology," 
between their "Medicine Men" and Father Mermet. They might 
follow the chase or their enemies that distance, but I doubt much, 
whether they would travel that far, to learn whether the "Manitou" 
of the Frenchman or the "Manitou of the Mascoutcn" was the one to 
bo worshipped. 

In the second place. The French had a settlement on the Ohio in 
the early part of the 18th century — by a settlement I mean a fixed 
establishment, a garrison, a town. Sieur .luchercau, for aught I 
know, may have had a trading house there, but there was no regular 
French establishment; and, according to Father Marest, it. was to such 
an establishment already garrisoned' — "a Fort," that Father Mermet 
went with the primary object of accomplishing the conversion of the 
"Mascoutens" to the true faith. I quote from the original letter of 
Father Marest to Father Germon, volume 6th, page 333 of the "Let- 
tres Edifiantes et Curieuscs," dated Kaskaskia, November 9th, 1712 : 

"Les Francois etoicnt etabli un Fort sur le fleuvc i Oi.abackc,' > ils 
demandcrent un Missionaire; et le Pere Mermet leur fut envoy6. Ce 
Pcre crut devoir aussi travaiUer a ia conversion des Mascoutens qui 


avoient fait un village sua les bords diimeme fleuve — :'est une 
des Indians qui entend la langue Illinoise." 

Now I have mentioned the fact, and given the reasons why the 
Ohio was called "Ouabache" by the same Father, and by others; a 
reason, as it appears to me, perfectly satisfactory. And as the French 
settled Vincennes, and established a Fort there early in the 18th cen- 
tury; and as the "Mascoutens" were located on that stream, and not 
on the Ohio, and being- a branch of the Miamis, and a portion of the 
Algonquin race, of course supposed to understand the "Illinoise," I 
think it conclusive that the "local" of Father Mermet's labors was the 
"Post" or "Fort" at Vincennes, and not the scite at the confluence of 
the Ohio and Mississippi, where Sicur Juchereau may, or may not, 
have made a settlement. At any rale, until some further evidence is 
produced, I shall, as I have done in the text, claim the honor of Father 
Mermet's first visit for "Post Vincennes.'''' 

Note C. 

It was a very difficult matter to induce the French inhabitants at 
Kaskaskia, after Clark's arrival there and capture of the place, to 
take the "Continental paper," which Clark and his soldiers had 
brought along with them; and it was not until after Col. Vigo went 
there, and gave his guaranty for its redemption, that they would gen- 
erally receive it. Peltries and Piastres were the only currency 
known to these simple and unsophisticated Frenchmen. They could 
neither read nor write, and Col. Vigo had great difficulty in explaining 
the operations of this new financial arrangement to them. "Their 
commandants never made money," was the only reply to the Colonel's 
explanations of the policy of the "Old Dominion" in these issues. 
But notwithstanding the Colonel's guaranty, the paper was not in 
good credit, and ultimately became very much depreciated. The 
Colonel had a trading establishment at Kaskaskia after Clark's 
arrival. Coffee was one dollar per pound. The poor Frenchman 
coming to purchase, was asked "what kind of payment he intended 
to make for it?" "Douleur" said he. And when it is recollected 
that it took about twenty continental dollars to purchase a silver 
dollar's worth of coffee, and that, the French word "douleur" signifies 
"grief," or "pain," perhaps no word either in the French or English 
languages expressed the idea more correctly, than "douleur" for "con- 
tinental dollars." At any rate it was truly "douleur'''' to the Colonel; 
for he never received a single dollar in exchange for the large amount 
he had taken in order to sustain Clark's credit. The above anecdote 
I had from the Colonel's own lips. 

Note D. 

I am indebted, and much indebted, to my friend Prof. Bliss of Louis- 
ville, Kentucky, for the letters of Gen. Clark and the extract from 


Major Bow man's journal of the capture of Vincennes, now for the first 
time published. I cannot but again repeat, what I have in the address 
so pointedly remarked, how little is known of the campaign of 1778, 
1779, and the capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes by Clark and his 
gallant followers. With the exception of a short notice of this in 
"Marshall's Life of Washington," and ihe more extended one of But- 
ler's in his "History of Kentucky," a modern work, the incidents of 
that campaign are hardly noticed. Yet it was, as it regards its ulti- 
mate effects to the Union, decidedly the most brilliant, and useful of 
any undertaking during the revolutionary war. Clark by that cam- 
paign added a territory embracing now three of the finest States in 
the Union, to the Confederacy, to wit, Indiana, Illinois, and Michi- 
gan; a territory, which, but for this very conquest, must now have 
been subject to British dominion, unless like Louisiana it had since, 
been acquired by purchase. For the only pretence of title which our 
commissioners, in the negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of 
peace in 1783, set up to this immense territory, was "the capture of 
it by Clark and the possession of it by the Americans at the date of 
the conference." The argument of "uti possidetis" prevailed; and 
the mind would be lost in the calculation of dollars and cents, to say 
nothing of the other matters "which constitute a State," — men "who 
know their rights" inhabiting it, and which the government has 
gained from the contest, — as to what will be the wealth and population 
of this same North Western Territory a half century hence? 

Professor Bliss is now preparing for publication a "Life of Gen. 
Clark." With the talent and research which he possesses, and with 
the materials which he has already collected, I have no hesitation in 
saying, that it will be one of the most interesting works which has 
ever issued from the American press. 

Most of the facts connected with the capture of Kaskaskia are 
derived from "Butler's History of Kentucky," a new edition of which 
has lately been published. It is a very useful and valuable work, and 
contains more incidents connected with western history, particularly 
the campaign of Clark in Illinois in 1778 '9, than any work hereto- 
fore published. 


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